NEWTON – The founding dean of Hebrew College’s rabbinical school has been barred from its campus over the fallout from an allegation of sexual misconduct with a faculty member who was previously his student.
Rabbi Arthur Green, a prominent scholar of Jewish mysticism, retired in May 2022 after two decades at the non-denominational Boston-area seminary. In separate email announcements on the same day, both Green and the college said a private matter concerning another member of the college’s community contributed to the timing.
Last week, however, Hebrew College’s leadership informed the community that the matter cited in 2022 involved “a report by a community member of an unwanted and distressing sexual advance” by Green, and that Green is no longer allowed to set foot on campus at all.
In an email to Green informing him of the ban last week, Hebrew College’s leadership mentioned “conduct by you in a recent interaction with an individual in Israel” that it called “concerningly similar” to the previous report of sexual misconduct. It also accuses Green of breaking a confidentiality agreement he made with the college.
In an interview with JTA, Green said he inappropriately kissed the faculty member but rejected the school’s claims that a second inappropriate incident had occurred or that he had violated his agreement with the school. Green also said that following the initial incident, he carried out several steps required by the school, but stopped short of taking part in a public “ceremony” that he said had been requested.
The ban, which was announced last week in an email to the Hebrew College community hours after Green was informed about it, marks an ignominious coda to a storied career for a rabbi who is widely considered a leader in neo-Hasidism or Renewal Judaism. The author of more than a dozen books, Green served as president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College before founding Hebrew College’s pioneering rabbinical seminary near Boston in 2003. As a teacher and administrator there, Green oversaw the seminary as it grew and contributed to a widespread disruption of the denominational rabbinical school model.
“Rabbi Art Green is no longer employed at Hebrew College nor welcome in the Hebrew College community because he engaged in sexual misconduct that caused significant emotional harm to a member of our community and was a serious violation of our institutional policies and our communal values,” said the college’s president, Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld.
She added, “Rabbi Green’s conduct and communication since the reported incident have not reflected a genuine understanding of the harm he has caused, nor has he undertaken a good faith process of teshuva,” Hebrew for repentance.
Green insists that he has not crossed a line since striking a retirement agreement with Hebrew College. Anisfeld did not describe the incident in Israel, or when it occurred. A source affiliated with Hebrew College said the college did not take steps to verify the incident.
Green does acknowledge acting inappropriately with a male faculty member who was previously his student, and expressed regret about it.
“I did something wrong,” he told JTA. “So I’m aware of that. I take responsibility for that.” He also said he believed the incidents did not merit his ouster and questioned whether the allegations were used as a pretense to eject him from the school he shaped.
Green detailed the allegations against him and the events leading to his being barred from campus in a draft email he shared with JTA and said he intended to send to his contacts. He sent an abbreviated version of the same email on Sunday afternoon.
In the email he sent, he wrote, “I am, and have always been, a bisexual man” and had “made the difficult decision to keep this private while still a rabbinical student nearly sixty years ago” in order to build a career in the Jewish world.
In the draft email, he had written that he had been looking for companionship after the 2017 death of his wife of 49 years.
“My admittedly inappropriate loss of control was an expression of affection by a lonely old guy, not an assertion of power to demand or force sex,” Green wrote in the draft.
He also said that he believed he had been wronged by Hebrew College’s handling of the incident.
“I consider myself a victim of the extreme ‘Me-tooism’ that has come to plague our society,” he wrote in the draft, referring to the movement to hold perpetrators accountable for sexual misconduct. He added that the faculty member “reported to Sharon he had ‘felt some sexual tension’ between us on prior occasions. I would just call it closeness.”
In the sent email, he acknowledged “another unwanted kiss by me” more than 30 years ago with a different person who he said was not a student.
“I take full responsibility for these encounters, my misjudgment of the situations, and the unintentional harm I caused to people for whom I cared,” he wrote. “I have communicated with them and sought to repair the harm. I am committed to ongoing awareness about this matter and exercising extreme caution in the future.”
Through representatives, the junior faculty member declined to speak about his experience. (JTA has spoken to two people with whom he had shared his account but whom he had not asked to speak on his behalf.) He has retained attorneys, including Debra S. Katz, who is known for representing alleged victims of sexual assault such as Christine Blasey Ford, who accused now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.
The attorneys said in a statement that the faculty member had “participated in a restorative justice process with Rabbi Art Green. As part of that process, our client and Rabbi Green agreed they would alert the other party before making any public statements. We are disappointed that Rabbi Green has failed to adhere to that commitment, forcing our client to hear through the grapevine of the narrative Rabbi Green is advancing.”
The second incident occurred that December and, according to Green’s email draft, is the allegation that prompted Hebrew College to initiate disciplinary action against him.
Green acknowledged, in his email draft and to JTA, that he kissed the faculty member “in a way I shouldn’t have” while the two were in Green’s Boston-area home.
Green attributed his behavior to having smoked marijuana with the faculty member. He said the faculty member had given him the drug, which felt particularly strong.
He wrote in his email, “What began as an expression of genuine affection was completely inappropriate and out-of-bounds to our relationship. I accept responsibility for my behavior and regret it deeply.”
Subsequently, Hebrew College administrators informed Rabbi Green that he had been accused of misconduct. Θ